The Impact of Internal Communication Lapses in Organizational Systems

The break down in organizational communication often happens as a result of the time is money philosophy. It is simply too expensive to communicate. We find communication unnecessary unless there is an issue and/or the communication needs have a direct impact on revenue.

Communication seems like a relatively simple concept but it seems to be kicked underneath the bed in organizations. Systems must communicate in order to maintain effectiveness and vitality. The human body is made up of multiple interacting components. The magnitude of repercussions that the human body experiences when parts disfunction and do not communicate are detrimental to the health of the system.

The brain coordinates the body’s two communication systems:  the nervous system and the endocrine system.  The two systems use similar chemical processes to communicate with targets throughout the body.

The health of any system depends on communication. Without communication illnesses start to pop up within the organization which can effect many domains such as branding, talent acquisition and talent retention.

THE ROLE OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATION

Internal communication is the lifeline of every organization regardless of the size. Some organizations rely only on informal communication whereas other organizations rely on formal communication. Complete reliance on just one of both forms will lead an organization astray. Formal and informal communication modes and methods should always be defined but rarely are. Let’s look at an example of “Jerry” and his presentation.

  • Jerry is assigned the task of preparing a presentation for the firms most important client.
  • Jerry has been given little to no direction regarding the presentation specifications.
  • Jerry must attend multiple formal meetings talking about the high level perspective of the project.
  • Jerry has no time to work on his presentation during the day so he must do the actual work at night.
  • Jerry has a couple of informal interactions with his supervisor in order to try and gather more specifics.
  • Jerry pulls together a draft of his presentation and presents it at one of the formal project overview meetings and his presentation is off track and the deadline is close.
  • Jerry is reprimanded for being ineffective and is viewed as incompetent.
  • Jerry now gets assigned to other formal meetings to talk about how to get back on track.
  • Jerry is now working even more overtime to try and meet the deadline.

Although the above scenario is just an example this is a very common problem within organizations. These types of lapses in communication cause frustration, turnover and can even effect revenue. The caliber of work that Jerry may have produced if he had all of the necessary details up front could make or break the presentation. The effectiveness of the presentation could make or break revenue and even brand value for the organization.

Although many employers are blaming the recession for increased levels of staff turnover, in reality as many as a third should look to their own poor communication and unsupportive company culture as the main culprits.

THE TURNOVER CYCLE

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SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION AND WHY DO SOLUTIONS FALL FLAT?

Many solution systems mimic the following model:

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Solutions take time to not only define but also to implement. Many times when solutions hit the ground there is a reaction. The following cyclical streamlined model would be the more appropriate problem solving methodology.

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DEFINING INFILTRATIVE SOLUTIONS

In recognizing issues within communication the need to determine appropriate solutions arises. Solutions that infiltrate the core of any problem require specific components in order to be effective. The following steps should be adopted.

Study the system that is in need of change. Spend time learning what the issues are. The best view of the enemy is in the foxhole not the Pentagon. This is where true solutions are needed and true perspective is gained.

Architect effective feedback loops and meta-feedback loops. An effective feedback loop effectively processes information. The information that feedback loops provide are commonly misinterpreted and under utilized. Incorporating meta-feedback loops that systematically work to correct existing loops is recommended.

Map out intrinsic responsibility. Intrinsic responsibility is a directly correlated action. Many organizations remove this ability from the masses and leave it to management. Middle managers then become bogged down and even if they have decision making capacity they are not always present to make judgement calls. These judgement calls are then made at the ground level despite what policy dictates. This is how rogue sub-policies are formed.

Deciding on a plausible rational for who is responsible that can operate in real time is part of what needs to be done. The other piece is policing, creating checks and balances and appropriate consequences that also analyze the system.

Realize that time is not money. Many solutions take time and resources to implement. Even the best solution evolves once it hits the ground and takes time. Think about solutions as you would the human body. When I have a headache I take the recommended dosage of Ibuprofen. I don’t keep chugging pills until my headache stops. If I chose to keep taking pills, the solution that in reality is effective, would then become ineffective at the point of implementation. I must realize that although my headache may be lingering, I have taken steps and the solution has been implemented. Now it’s a matter of time until it works through my system. If for some reason my headache still persists I must then re-evaluate the effectiveness of my solution and consider other contributing factors.

Create interdisciplinary arena’s of collaboration. Many organizations are extremely siloed with very little interdisciplinary interaction. Defying the disciplines for the sake of seeing outside perspectives is sometimes necessary in order to find solutions.

So what would an appropriate feedback loop look like in Jerry’s case? One of the issues that Jerry experienced was lag time in necessary feedback which is a communication issue. Effective communication in regards to project work aligns feedback and execution. The following feedback loop indicates formal and non-formal communication strategies that help to align feedback with execution in order to prevent the project from derailing, overall frustration and low morale.

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By neglecting your IC,  you create an environment where those that shout loudest get heard – regardless of their role within the organization or whether their message fits with strategic goals. Enlightened organizations recognize this and build tools and channels to promote and deliver excellent IC. Senior executives, managers and frontline teams ‘buy in’ to good communication, not just because of how it’s delivered, but because it helps them in their role. Ultimately, IC is about people. It’s about how we interact and how we react to the information we’re given. When IC is working properly, it helps your staff understand your organization’s values and gives them the tools and information they need to do their job brilliantly. IC is the knowledge-base of a great organization. – Institute of Internal Communication

3 thoughts on “The Impact of Internal Communication Lapses in Organizational Systems

  1. Hi — there’s lots of good information here. Thanks for posting it. It seems, like this is two articles in one, however. I got lost in how the Turn-over cycle and later sections directly relate to Jerry and the problem his organization gives him. More tying of the information to the Jerry analogy, which you very fully developed, would have helped me understand the later parts.

    1. Thanks Derek! I was having trouble tying a few points together and I wasn’t quite sure if my points were strong. It really helps to have another opinion. I think this particular piece will be a bit of a work in progress piece. Thanks for the feedback!

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